The Biden administration’s proposed $859 million fiscal year 2024 budget for the Government Accountability Office (GAO) will help the agency to maximize its science, technology, and cybersecurity reporting capabilities to meet Congress’s growing demand for those services, GAO’s top official told lawmakers at a Senate Legislative Branch Subcommittee hearing on March 15.

Gene Dodaro, comptroller general for GAO, told lawmakers that the FY 2024 budget proposal would ensure that GAO employees have access to modern information technology tools to “enable auditors to better serve the growing demand by Congress for GAO services.”

On the tech front, the budget request would help support continued implementation of GAO’s multi-year IT modernization effort and needed infrastructure improvements; and its efforts to prioritize use of 21st-century tools and technologies needed to support the GAO workforce, including enhanced cloud data management and storage solutions.

The modernization effort also includes IT security upgrades to combat the ever-growing cybersecurity threats toward U.S. assets in alignment with leading practices and standards, GAO said.

Dodaro told lawmakers that the FY2024 proposed budget would ensure GAO can prioritize reporting on government-wide cybersecurity capabilities.

“We have a decades-long track record of informing congressional decision-making on cybersecurity issues,” Dodaro said.

For example, GAO has contributed to legislative work on information security, including the Federal Information Security Management Act of 2002 (FISMA), the subsequent amendment to FISMA in 2014, and the Federal Cybersecurity Enhancement Act of 2015, he said.

“Our work will continue to assess multiple priorities, such as the execution of the Administration’s recently announced national cybersecurity strategy and the need for sustained leadership to perform effective oversight,” Dodaro said.

In FY 2024, Dodaro said, GAO must produce several other cybersecurity assessments, including reports on Federal efforts to enhance cybersecurity protections in areas including implementation of zero trust architectures, the deployment of sophisticated systems to monitor Federal networks for intrusions and other malicious activity, and strategies for leveraging AI to enhance cybersecurity and for addressing cyber risks to operational technology.

GAO’s proposed budget would also allow for a “modest increase” in GAO’s staffing levels to 3,675 full-time equivalents to meet the demand for its services, and in particular expanding GAO’s Science, Technology Assessment and Analytics (STAA) team.

The STAA team provides Congress assessments of critical technologies and related policy options. In 2019, Congress directed GAO to expand its STAA team. As of March 1, 2023, STAA has 149 full-time staff and is actively hiring for another ten positions. The STAA team includes experts in fields such as microbiology, quantum mechanics, nuclear physics, public health, and chemical engineering.

“Our FY 2024 budget request will allow us to continue to build our [science and technology] capabilities through expanding the expertise on our STAA team,” Dodaro said. “Our budget request would allow us to continue to expand this team to 200 staff.”

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Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.